“I like to have something laid out for guests when they arrive: a few nibbles and a bottle of champagne or prosecco already open, so they feel welcome the moment they step through the door. Then I know they’re well taken care of, even if I’m still pottering in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on dinner. I like to keep it really simple: bowls of juicy green olives, salted almonds, chunks of parmesan, taralli, slices of prosciutto or salami with chunks of sourdough and Mostarda di Cremona.”
“I often don’t bother with starters, but if it’s a special occasion or a festive dinner it can be nice to stretch the meal out. I still keep things very simple, though: a lovely soup (like a white wine, pumpkin and almond soup), that I can prepare in advance and dish up at the last minute. Or another favourite of mine is burrata cheese, just as is with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt, and a handful of pomegranate seeds on top.”
“For the main course, more often than not I like to make a roast. It’s the simplest thing to cook – you just pop it in the oven for a couple of hours and let it fend for itself. But also, there is something about a roast that feels innately celebratory. Turkey, ham and goose are, of course, traditional at this time of year, but I’m also a big fan of a simple, buttery roast chicken served on a bed of fresh rosemary and thyme. I don’t think you can beat it.”
SIDE NUMERO UNO
“Sometimes the sides can be more of a star that the main course itself – a lovely centrepiece for the table, as well as a great alternative for vegetarian guests: savoury tarts are wonderful for this. I tend to buy puff pastry readymade from the shops (the all-butter, really good kind), then top it with anything from mascarpone, chicory and cherries to taleggio cheese and courgette.”
SIDE NUMERO DUE
“I always make lots of sides: they’re a wonderful way to bring colour, flavour and vibrancy to the table. No meal is complete without a crisp, peppery salad (red chicory with walnuts and mustard dressing is my particular favourite at the moment). And then I like to make the most of whatever produce is in season: carrots Vichy, cooked in butter and sherry vinegar, and roast pumpkin with salt and honeycomb are my go-tos right now.”
“Sauces can transform a meal: they’re a lovely little extra that can make even something so plain as turkey breast taste sumptuous. Gravy, of course, and cranberry sauce are traditional at this time of year. But I also love just roasting fruit – grapes, plums, persimmons or apples, and serving them warm with the meat. It’s wonderfully low-maintenance and looks beautiful.”
“Pudding is my favourite part of any meal. At this time of year, I love panettone. Strictly speaking, a good panettone needs nothing with it – though if I’m in the mood for something especially indulgent I might serve it with a warm zabaglione custard or a very generous dollop of brandy butter (heaven!). In my cook book, I have a recipe for panettone cake layered with mascarpone and almond buttercream that is utterly sublime and a firm favourite in our household.”
“Laying and decorating the table is often my favourite part of preparing for any meal. There is so much that you can do to create a sense of occasion with little more than a few flickering candles and a jug of flowers. At this time of year, I like to decorate the table with piles of fruit: whole pineapples, bowls of red pomegranates, heaps of walnuts, sweet clementines and juicy pears. And then I lay a festive cracker to mark each place.”
As long-time fans of Skye’s articles on how to make entertaining at home both effortless and enjoyable, not to mention her beautifully curated feed and endlessly inspiring cook book, we were thrilled to sit down and discuss her plans for feeding family and friends this festive season.
Life in Skye’s kitchen is busy and bustling this time of year – which is exactly how she likes it. “I have friends coming over for dinner most nights this week,” she says. “But there are just so many people who I want to wish a happy Christmas and I always think it’s so much more comfortable at home. Everyone just relaxes.”
Of course, readers of Skye’s cookbook, A Table In Venice, and inspiring lifestyle and cooking website, From My Dining Table, will know that easy entertaining is her sweet spot. And she insists that anyone can do it. “I think there’s a misconception that when people come over for dinner they expect something complicated and fancy,” says Skye. “My friends know that mostly, I’m serving up a roast chicken, salad and potatoes – nearly everyone enjoys that kind of simple, delicious food.”
Thankfully, she has a few tips for those of us who still feel a little hot and bothered at the idea of eight friends popping around for supper. “Starting with good produce makes your life as a cook so much easier, because you don’t need to do much to make it taste amazing,” says Skye. “I get the best produce I can, but I also don’t spend my life running across London. Mostly, I just order it on Ocado.” Skye also doesn’t choose meals that are too intensive (or rely on friends being on time). “I would never cook risotto, which requires constant attention and needs to be served as soon as it’s ready. Instead, I opt for sides that can be prepared in advance and roasts which only get better if they rest.”
Finally, Skye lays the table before guests arrive. “I know a lot of people save that for last, as it’s quick and easy, but for me it’s just really welcoming when people arrive and the table is ready,” she says. “You avoid that awkward moment where they wonder if they’ve arrived too soon.” Read on for the delicious menu Skye will be enjoying with her nearest and dearest in that gorgeous dusky pink kitchen.
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